Census 2020: “Everyone Counts” Reporting Project

Launched in 2019, Renaissance Journalism’s “Everyone Counts” Reporting Project aimed to support innovative, collaborative and community-focused journalism that targeted groups who have historically been undercounted by the census, such as immigrants, non-English speakers and children and youth.

The project recognized the critical importance of the census count to our democracy and to the well-being of our communities. Census or population data is used to guide how much money each state receives for federally funded programs and services, such as health services, nutrition assistance, highway planning and construction, early childhood education programs and housing assistance. Census data also determines the number of congressional seats and Electoral College votes a state gets.


Renaissance Journalism awarded a total of $50,000 in grants to five Bay Area news organizations to implement strategies for raising awareness and increasing participation in the 2020 census among hard-to-count groups by stimulating innovative news media coverage, storytelling projects and/or community engagement activities.

The five grantees were selected from a sizable pool of applicants based on a competitive RFP process. The grantee organizations were encouraged to partner with non-profit, community-based groups and to tap “trusted community messengers” in the planning and implementation of their projects.

The grantees completed their projects in the face of tremendous odds imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the historic explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. These events forced the news organizations to quickly adapt in order to deal with their communities’ as well as their staff’s needs and well-being, and to often work with reduced staffing under challenging conditions.

Here is an overview of their efforts with links to selected stories:

Bay City News Foundation, the nonprofit behind LocalNewsMatters.org and the Bay City News wire service, partnered with Ethnic Media Services and published 29 stories on the 2020 U.S. Census, with a specific focus on its impact on Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and Asian communities in the Bay Area. Of particular note were the stories on the rapid increase in sub-Asian groups, from Nepalese to Mongolian to Bhutanese, and the features on outreach to the Pacific Island and Native American communities. In addition, the organization opened their mentoring program to students who were interested in census outreach and published several of their articles to encourage their education and path toward journalism.

El Tímpano, a local reporting lab, encouraged census participation among East Oakland’s Latinx immigrant population by bringing a “community microphone” to popular community-gathering places, such as libraries, busy street corners, schools, churches, and transit plazas. El Tímpano also relaunched their SMS reporting service with a new and improved online platform.

KBBF 89.1 FM, the nation’s first bilingual public radio station, used the grant to broadcast over 60 census-related radio segments in English, Spanish, Triqui, Mixteco and other indigenous languages over the course of the project. Additionally, they set up an information table at Sonoma State University to spread awareness about the importance of college students being accurately counted, and leveraged their social media channels to distribute relevant information about how to participate in the census.

Radio Bilingüe (National Latino Public Radio Network) collaborated with the grassroots nonprofit Asociación Mayab of the Bay Area  to produce reports, creative productions and numerous one-hour live interactive talk shows on the views and experiences of Bay Area Mayans about the census. Stories explored both real and perceived barriers to participation, raised awareness about the importance of being counted, and addressed listener-submitted questions and concerns. Here are links to two stories:

Mayan interpreters manage to follow census promotion work

Counting Mayan communities in California in their final stretch

YR Media (formerly known as Youth Radio) called upon Bay Area youth as trusted community messengers to produce informational multimedia and social media content that addressed local young people’s common questions about census participation. These young journalists produced one video and two articles for the YR Media website, and four additional posts on Instagram, all of which informed young people and their families about the census. Here are links to some of their work:

Yes, college students still need to participate in the census

Here is what you need to know about the 2020 census (with video)



Renaissance Journalism awarded a $10,000 reporting grant to the San Francisco Public Press to investigate how the lingering digital divide might undermine the 2020 census, the federal government’s massive effort to count every man, woman and child in the United States.

The 2020 census marked the first time that the U.S. Census Bureau conducted the decennial count primarily online, creating a possible participation barrier for those without reliable access to the internet. Even in affluent and tech-savvy San Francisco, 10,000 people live in homes that lack internet access and 8,000 live on the streets or in temporary shelters.

The San Francisco Public Press produced three episodes of “Civic”—their daily news and public affairs radio show and podcast—about the census, focusing on challenges faced by groups for whom digitizing the census would present particular barriers, including technological, linguistic and physical obstacles, as well as deep lack of trust in government agencies. Here are links to the text summaries of the three episodes with embedded audio links:



Census 2020: Reaching Out to Hard-to-Count Groups

In February 2020, the grantees were invited to present their work alongside community organizers, activists, census employees, and others working to empower at-risk populations to participate in the census at a public media briefing hosted and organized by Renaissance Journalism in San Francisco. The briefing, Census 2020: Reaching Out to Hard-to-Count Groups, was attended by more than 40 journalists, representing 18 local news organizations. The daylong conversation sparked rich insights and reflections about the backgrounds of immigrants, Muslims, American Indians, the homeless, rural residents, and others who often get undercounted for one reason or another.


The “Everyone Counts Reporting Project” was developed with generous support from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Additional support was provided by The Nathan Cummings Foundation and Ford Foundation. Our warmest thanks to these foundations for making this important initiative possible.